Tennessee needed to open up a big lead early in their Week 2 match-up with Indiana State, and that’s just what they did. The Vols returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the rest of the game was essentially all Tennessee.
If not for a turnover deep in their own territory that gave the Sycamores great field position, Tennessee likely would’ve shut out their FCS opponent. As it was, however, the Vols allowed one score on defense, but that would be the extent of the Sycamores’ damage on offense as Tennessee ran away with a 42-7 victory in their home opener.
Here are who we believe had the best performances in Tennessee’s second win of the season and earned the game balls from the RTI team.
Offense – John Kelly, RB
Even with younger players getting action fairly early and often, running back John Kelly still had more touches than the rest of Tennessee’s running backs combined. Kelly had 18 carries for 80 yards and hauled in five receptions for 60 yards. All of those stats were the highest on the team in this game.
Tennessee’s offense will run through John Kelly all season, and it did against Indiana State in Week 2 as well. Kelly may not have scored a touchdown a week after totaling four, but he’s still the No. 1 weapon on the Vols’ offense and will remain so as long as he can remain healthy.
Defense – Rashaan Gaulden, DB
He may not have filled up the stat sheet quite like sophomore linebacker Daniel Bituli did last week, but Rashaan Gaulden put in a solid effort on Saturday. Gaulden totaled five tackles in the game, but it’s his work that won’t show up in the stats that earned him this game ball.
Butch Jones preached the importance of making sure tackles after Tennessee’s thrilling 42-41 win over Georgia Tech, and Gaulden took that to heart. Tennessee wasn’t as bad at arm tackling in this one as they were in their first game, but there were still some missed tackles and whiffs in assignments. Gaulden rarely had those and was the most consistent tackler on the team against Indiana State, not to mention fairly solid in coverage as well.
Special Teams – Ty Chandler, RB
When you take your second ever collegiate kick return for a touchdown, you earn a game ball. It’s as simple as that. And that’s exactly what freshman running back Ty Chandler did.
The Vols won the coin toss, elected to receive the opening kick, and then Chandler, filling in for an injured Evan Berry, took that opening kick 91 yards to the end zone, scoring his first ever collegiate touchdown in an explosive way. Chandler had a kick return in Week 1 of the Vols’ 2017 season for 14 yards, but his second kick return is the one he’ll remember forever.